Butler Has the Raptors' Number, Scores 29 in Win

Wizards 101, Raptors 97

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 2, 2007; Page D05

The night at Verizon Center was supposed to be about the No. 10, as the Washington Wizards recognized Earl Monroe by retiring his jersey and celebrated the 10th anniversary of the building's existence. But Caron Butler made it impossible to ignore the No. 3.

Three is his jersey number and lately, three-pointers have become the shot of preference for the all-star forward. Butler opened the game with three consecutive baskets from beyond the arc and scored a game-high 29 points as the Wizards defeated the Toronto Raptors, 101-97, before the fifth sellout crowd (20,173) of the season.

On a night of threes, Wizards forward Caron Butler draws a crowd during this drive to the basket against Toronto.
On a night of threes, Wizards forward Caron Butler draws a crowd during this drive to the basket against Toronto. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

"Don't hesitate. Don't hold nothing back," said Butler, who finished with four three-pointers and seven assists. "I'm taking advantage of the opportunity. You work on stuff all summer, now you're on center stage, it's time to display everything and show everybody what you are capable of doing."

The win snapped a two-game losing streak and helped the Wizards (8-9) improve to 5-4 without all-star guard Gilbert Arenas. Four Wizards finished in double figures -- forward Antawn Jamison added 28 points, Roger Mason scored a season-high 15 and DeShawn Stevenson had 11 -- as Toronto (9-8) lost for the first time in four games.

Jamison was especially valuable rebounding, as he finished with a game-high 14 rebounds, with three coming on the offensive end.

Toronto swingman Jason Kapono (23 points) brought the Raptors to 98-94 when he made a baseline three-pointer with 44 seconds remaining. On the Wizards' next possession, Stevenson missed a three-pointer but Jamison chased down the ball and batted it up, volleyball style, out to Stevenson. It saved the possession and essentially the game. Butler sealed the win from the foul line, hitting 3 of 4 free throws in the final seconds.

"I was able to just find the ball," Jamison said. "During that particular time I needed to do something else to help the team. There are times when the ball doesn't come your way and you need to do other things."

Jamison had the No. 21 scribbled on his shoes in honor of slain Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. The Wizards remembered Taylor with a moment of silence before the game. "I was a big fan of his," Jamison said. "Even though he played football and I played basketball. I felt like we was brothers. We represented the same community."

Each team was missing its best player, and both were playing the second of back-to-back games. The Raptors were playing their second consecutive game without all-star forward Chris Bosh, who didn't travel with the team because of a strained right groin.

The Wizards led 60-49 when Stevenson hit a three-pointer with 8:58 left in the third quarter but the Raptors edged back to 66-65 as Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker and Kapono combined to hit four three-pointers over the next five minutes. Toronto tied the game at 75 when reserve Carlos Delfino nailed a three-pointer, but Butler responded with another three-pointer to give the Wizards a 78-75 lead entering the fourth period.

Jamison helped the Wizards jump to an 88-79 lead as he scored eight points during a 10-4 run to start the final period. The Raptors closed within three but Antonio Daniels ended an almost four-minute scoring drought with a layup.

With the Wizards playing their sixth game in nine days, Coach Eddie Jordan said he would use all 10 players. That turned out to be somewhat of a blessing as Mason, who didn't play the night before in Philadelphia, found his shooting stroke as he made 6 of 11 shots.

With less than four minutes remaining, the shot clock was winding down and Mason had nowhere to go. He turned around and shot the ball.

It splashed through the nets, giving the Wizards a seven-point lead.

"It felt good to get a rhythm out there," Mason said. "Coach had confidence to keep me in there. I got some good looks."

Butler coolly stepped up and nailed another long jump shot to give the Wizards a 96-87 lead. Butler has been working on his three-point shot with assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. He made a career-high five three-pointers on five attempts against Dallas. In his past six games, Butler has shot 19 for 26 (73 percent) from three-point range. He made 18 three-pointers all of last season.

"It's a collective effort," Butler said. "Guys look to us [Butler and Jamison] to set the tone night in and night out and the guys follow our lead. It's been great."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company